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Sudoku History
Enlarge Image From La France newspaper, July 6, 1895. The puzzle instructions read, "Use the numbers 1 to 9 each nine times to complete the grid in such a way so that the horizontal, vertical, and two main diagonal lines all add up to the same total."

Contrary to popular belief, SUDOKU origin is not from Japan, its direct origins traced to France in the late 19th century. Number puzzles appeared in newspapers, when French puzzle setters began experimenting with removing numbers from magic squares. "Le Siècle", a Paris-based daily, published a partially completed 9×9 magic square with 3×3 sub-squares on November 19, 1892. It was not a Sudoku because it contained double-digit numbers and required arithmetic rather than logic to solve, but it shared key characteristics: each row, column and sub-square added up to the same number.

On July 6, 1895, Le Siècle's rival, "La France", refined the puzzle so that it was almost a modern Sudoku. It simplified the 9×9 magic square puzzle so that each row, column and broken diagonals contained only the numbers 1–9, but did not mark the sub-squares. Although they are unmarked, each 3×3 sub-square does indeed comprise the numbers 1–9 and the additional constraint on the broken diagonals leads to only one solution. These weekly puzzles were a feature of French newspapers such as "L'Echo de Paris" for about a decade but disappeared about the time of World War I.

According to "Will Shortz", the modern Sudoku was most likely designed anonymously by an American named "Howard Garns", a 74-year-old retired architect and freelance puzzle constructor from Connersville, Indiana, and first published in 1979 by "Dell" Magazines as "Number Place" (the earliest known examples of modern Sudoku). Garns's name was always present on the list of contributors in issues of Dell Pencil Puzzles and Word Games that included Number Place, and was always absent from issues that did not. He died in 1989 before getting a chance to see his creation as a worldwide phenomenon. It is unclear if Garns was familiar with any of the French newspapers listed above.

The puzzle was introduced in Japan by "Nikoli" in the paper "Monthly Nikolist" in April 1984 as "Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru" (数字は独身に限る), which also can be translated as "the digits must be single (unmarried)". At a later date, the name was abbreviated to Sudoku (數獨) (su = number, doku = single) by "Kaji Maki". Sudoku is a registered trademark in Japan and the puzzle is generally referred to as Number Place. It is now published in mainstream Japanese periodicals, such as the "Asahi Shimbun".